Designers and developers work best and achieve most when they are in sync. One of the easiest and quickest ways to accomplish a proper team collaboration is through online education.
Simon Ensor, managing director at digital marketing agency Yellowball, used online education to reduce the “back-and-forth time” between his company’s designers and developers. The customary “waterfall process,” where one team passes the product to another instead of continually collaborating, failed. It caused designers to propose designs that were “a nightmare to implement” on the development side.
By signing designers up for a $25 a month account at Treehouse, a popular site for learning programming skills, Ensor let them practice coding so they could make more development-friendly designs. Employees took the following courses and Ensor explained how each one made a difference:
- HTML Email Design — Because emails are made of little chunks of HTML, designers with HTML email design skills can create designs more easily implemented during email marketing campaigns.
- Framework Basics Course — “If a designer does not create designs with the same front-end framework in mind, this will increase the amount of custom code and therefore build time and test time, along with the likelihood of bugs,” Ensor said.
- SVG Basics Course — Designers need to understand the limitations of scalable vector graphics (SVG) because they use XML text files. Doing this will give them the ability to manipulate SVG files and creative moving images, according to Ensor.
- HTML — For any designer producing content that will appear on the Web, understanding HTML is preferred, if not essential.
This successfully reduced the time spent fixing development-related design mistakes, frustrating design issues with clients, and workflow problems. The solution was more cost-effective than making the developers take time out of their schedules to train the designers, Ensor said.
Try Solving the Problem with Agile
To avoid pitfalls of the waterfall process such as a lack of cohesion between design and development, companies and project managers have increasingly shifted to agile project management, according to the Project Management Institute.
Agile project management requires teams to test parts of a digital product. And they need to do it while they are building it, rather than completing the project before testing it. When it comes to developers and designers working together, it is superior. It requires teams to collaborate constantly and validate project segments.
E-learning meshes well with this approach by offering resources employees can access at any time and learn from in increments. A designer might take a front-end development course while designing visual components. Later start a back-end development course to ensure developers make design features function properly. Conversely, developers can invest in design courses, but managers usually prioritize the former if there are budget or time constraints.
Using Waterfall, Agile and Both
Agile may be better in some situations, but it isn’t completely superior to the waterfall.
“Waterfall approaches are great for small projects where everyone already knows exactly what they are doing; in fact, you could probably argue that waterfall projects shouldn’t need project management,” Ensor said.
Other managers such as Bill Curtis, chief scientist at software analysis firm CAST, have suggested blending waterfall and agile.
“What the mix of the waterfall method does is give attention to the overall architecture of the system at the start. And then after that you can get the benefit of the rapid feedback on what you are developing by doing it in short cycle releases,” Curtis said.
If time and budget permit, managers should try experimenting to see which method works best to produce efficient, quality work while unifying developers and designers. Online education, such as cost-effective courses from Treehouse, should be a constant companion. Helping designers and developers grow their skills — and understand their teammates’ technical perspectives — can only improve the creative process and boost your business.